House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dismissed President Trump’s new hard-line immigration proposals as “a complete non-starter” Monday, adding that her caucus may withhold support for must-pass spending bills later this year if Congress can’t reach agreement on how to protect “dreamers” from deportation.
“I fully intend to use every possibility” to strike a deal on the status of young immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Pelosi said. But, she added: “We’re not at that place yet. Right now, we’re trying to get Republicans to vote on what we believe.”
House Democrats are pushing an up-or-down vote on a bill that would grant eligible dreamers legal status in the United States and set many of them on a path to U.S. citizenship. But they have so far failed to persuade enough Republicans to join them in using procedural tactics to force a vote on the legislation.
On Monday, Pelosi dismissed the fresh immigration policy ideas unveiled by the White House. Based on documents released Sunday night, the Trump administration is demanding full construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, restrictions on legal immigration and a plan to curb young migrants from leaving Central American nations to cross illegally into the United States. The new proposals came after Trump last month decided to end DACA and gave Congress six months to pass a solution he could sign into law.
Pelosi, who met with Trump last month and agreed over a dinner of Chinese food to work on a plan to protect dreamers, suggested Monday that the official White House proposals don’t mirror the president’s personal thinking.
“I do believe the president when he says he wants to protect the dreamers. I do not think what his staff put forward is in furtherance of that. In fact, it’s endangering them,” she said in an interview.
Pelosi said that the administration’s new plan is “un-American” and that “there’s nothing in it to negotiate because it does not have shared values of who we are as Americans. As long as we understand that, let’s go on with what we can agree on.”
Pelosi said her conference remains unified in opposition to Trump’s ideas — but it is not in agreement on how to respond.
Some members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said Monday that they would withhold support for must-pass spending bills set to be passed in December unless the fate of DACA recipients has been determined. In recent years, near-unanimous support from Democrats has been needed to pass government spending bills and legislation to raise the federal debt limit amid opposition from dozens of fiscal conservatives opposed to increased spending without subsequent budget cuts.
Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), an outspoken critic of Trump’s immigration platform, called on Democrats to withhold votes for the spending legislation set to be passed around Dec. 9. That date, Gutiérrez said, “is going to be a moment of definition” for Democrats. “If we approve a budget which doesn’t include the Dream Act, then we’ve turned our back on our immigrant community and our principles.”
“I’m not saying we should shut down the government, but if you want a budget with Democratic votes, then it’s got to have some Democratic priorities,” Gutiérrez added.
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), who chairs the Hispanic Caucus, said that withholding votes for spending legislation “is definitely on the table” for her caucus, but she agreed with Pelosi that Democrats should wait before doing so. Immediately threatening to vote against spending legislation “doesn’t open the door for moderate Republicans” who support immigration reform bills, she said.
Pelosi signaled that despite the immediate impasse, she anticipates that the issue of dreamers should be resolved by the end of 2017.
“We’re hoping that we get it done before December,” she said, adding later: “We have to do it before Christmas. That’s just the way it is.”